YCKTML Chapter 53
After paying our respects, we headed over to a small chapel near the tomb, where a statue of the goddess Terrsa benevolently smiling stood.
I stood in front of the statue and whispered a prayer for the dead, “…I pray for the souls that have been laid to rest here…”
I only prayed as a formality, but on the other hand, I did it with Erin, who owned this body, in mind. I was the only one who knew of her death, and I wanted to express my condolences.
For now, I was pretending to be her, but I also reminded myself that I was different from Erin. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to escape from Erin’s fate.
I looked up when I finished praying and saw a bright light pouring in from the window beyond the statue. I frowned, and my eyes met the figure of the goddess.
Of course, when I said our eyes met, it was only in my head. The statue’s eyes weren’t even visible. I just felt that way.
“Madam, I think you can rest over there.”
When noon passed and the afternoon sun shone, Richard recommended going to the park rather than going straight to the castle. Seeing that he had recommended it so naturally, it seemed that staying there for a while after paying respects was the norm of the place.
Anyway, returning to the castle now would only give me a headache, so I decided to stop by and chat with Enoch.
With Richard standing guard in the distance, Enoch and I sat under the shade of a large tree in the park next to the cemetery. We took out the sandwiches and fruits Jenny had packed and took a quick bite. Enoch had already put food on the plate in front of me and encouraged me to eat it.
“At least drink this,” Enoch said, handing over a cup full of apple juice.
I accepted the cup and glanced at him, who gestured with his chin as if telling me to drink. Puzzled, I drank half of the apple juice and put it down.
He chuckled at my confused look, and poured the remaining juice from the cup into his mouth. “You didn’t have breakfast, did you?”
“I didn’t have an appetite in the morning. It smells…” Then I suddenly remembered the smell again. “Did you smell it too? It smelled like something was burning… Did you burn anything in the room? Do you smoke?”
“No, that’s not it,” he immediately denied, stroking his chin with his hand. Then, he looked into the distance, immersed in his thoughts.
I continued, “But Richard says he didn’t smell anything. It doesn’t seem like his nose is congested either.”
“Do you know something? Your Highness?”
He just smiled and didn’t answer. At first, I thought the smell wasn’t a big deal, but looking at Enoch’s reaction, it probably was.
When I continued to stare at him, Enoch smiled sheepishly and said, “I will tell you when the time comes.”
“When will that time come?”
“I just hope it won’t be too long.”
I finally found the answer from his cool and cryptic answer. It was a little bittersweet, but I soon understood.
The time he was talking about, it was probably after the divorce.
After a little more small talk, we got up. Enoch escorted me inside the carriage, but just before he got on, Richard, who had been silent the whole time, suddenly spoke, “Your Highness, did our young master swear an oath of allegiance to you?”
I thought about the oath of allegiance that I had only read in books. It was a kind of oath a knight made to his master. It meant that he would be loyal to his master first, then the empire second.
“No, not yet. If Rupert becomes the Duke, wouldn’t he do it?”
Richard nodded slowly, looking skeptical. “…I guess. But the relationship between the two is wrong.”
Enoch tapped Richard’s shoulder as if he didn’t care about what he said, and got on the carriage.
After listening to Richard, I guessed that the former Dukes of Clifford must have pledged allegiance to the Crown Prince even before becoming a Duke.
Rupert’s legitimacy must not be the only reason Duke Clifford hasn’t officially appointed him as his successor.
Considering Rupert’s attitude towards the Crown Prince, it wasn’t surprising. So what was he going to do?
I suddenly looked at Enoch. Did he believe in Rupert, or did he know more but was hiding it?
Our eyes met and he smiled. Perhaps this, too, would remain unanswered.
That in itself might be the answer.
‘The Crown Prince is suspicious of Rupert.’
As soon as the carriage arrived at the castle, I saw Rupert and Chloe walking affectionately in the garden. Chloe clung to Rupert’s arm, saying something in a cute voice. She even seemed to be whining.
Rupert looked apologetic as he comforted her. This was purely a guess, but it was probably about going out last night.
Ah, it seemed that Chloe didn’t give up on Rupert.
“Count, let’s get off.”
I took Enoch’s hand and went down, and Rupert saw us. He let go of Chloe and walked over to me.
Before Rupert could ask, Enoch said, “We went to the family shrine in the territory.”
“Did His Highness accompany you?”
“Yes, since there’s no one at the castle.”
Enoch smiled and looked at Chloe approaching Rupert’s side. She curtsied to Enoch and me, her face devoid of any trace that we had that conversation earlier.
“Have you been well? If you had given me a message, I would have gone along with you, but I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“That… There’s no need to apologize, Lady Andron. We went to the cemetery where the remains of Duke Clifford’s family and vassals are buried. Only people related to the family can enter. Even sir Richard can’t go in alone.”
I said so to emphasize how absurd it was for a mistress to try to enter the cemetery. I didn’t forget to show the Clifford seal the Duke had given me through Richard the first time I met him.
“Oh, of course, the Crown Prince is an exception.”
With a gentle smile on my face, I bowed to Enoch, and he smiled at me when our eyes met. Rupert and Chloe’s faces hardened at the same time.
“I’ll go in first, Count. Go in and rest.”
“Yes, Your Highness. Thank you for accompanying us,” I thanked him as he left, then stood stiffly again and looked at the other two.
Rupert didn’t hide his jealousy while Chloe quickly cleared her expression and smiled again.
Not so long ago, I didn’t hate Chloe that much, but the hatred piled up from the moment she messed with me. Looking at her now, I wanted to wipe the smile on her face.
The method was simple. I looked at Rupert and sighed, “I’m tired. I want to go inside and rest. Will you come with me?”
“…Oh, are you tired? That’s understandable. Come on, let’s go in.”
Rupert reached out to me. He seemed oblivious that this conversation wasn’t normal; he just seemed happy that I had made the offer first.
I knew Rupert would act like this. He liked Chloe but wasn’t considerate. It was the other way around too.
He was so jealous; I didn’t know how he thought Chloe would be okay with it.
It was pathetic, but it had nothing to do with me. I put my hand very slightly over Rupert’s outstretched hand.
After all, I only had one goal. On the one hand, it was fortunate that Enoch went in first. Whether Rupert misunderstood or not didn’t matter.
“Then see you later, Lady.”
I turned around to look at Chloe’s face. Chloe had gone completely pale as she chewed her face. I liked the expression on her face, but was she in pain?
As soon as I thought about it, Chloe collapsed right away.
Rupert immediately let go of my hand and ran to Chloe. “Chloe, get a hold of yourself. Chloe!”
This time, I was surprised, too. It didn’t look like Chloe was acting; she really looked unwell.
As I followed Rupert to Chloe, I smelled a faint scent from her. It was similar to the burning smell that had spread in the castle this morning.
So, did she burn something?
While I was speculating, I heard urgent footsteps rushing towards us. I turned towards the sound and saw Eliana running and huffing towards us.
I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw her. Something must be wrong.
“His Grace is, haa, His Grace’s condition is critical!”
How could the Duke’s condition, which seemed relatively normal this morning when I saw him, suddenly turn for the worse?
For a moment, I turned to look at Rupert and Chloe in his arms. His eyes wide in surprise, Rupert asked, “Since when was he in critical condition? How is he now?”
“A-a couple of hours ago…”
While watching Rupert and Eliana, I saw the tip of Chloe’s pale lips rising slightly. The hairs on the back of my neck rose at the chilling sight.
Rupert tightened his hold on Chloe and said, “I’ll take you to your room and come out.”
While I watched Rupert’s arms drooping and shaking with every step, I wondered if what I had seen earlier was a mistake. Still, I rubbed my hands to calm the goosebumps on my arms.
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